That One Thing Young Men Need
In the middle of his very practical pastoral letter to Titus, Paul encourages him to instruct the different age and gender groups in the church. He will get to the young men. Yet to lead into this discussion, he first tells Titus, "But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine" (Tit. 2:1).
The word "sound" he uses is an interesting one. This word has the idea of soundness such as someone being in good health. Paul is telling Titus that he needs to teach the things which are correcting in nature, that bring sound health to a soul, much like a doctor ordering a patient with a poor heart to make diet and lifestyle changes.
Also, as this word is an instrumental dative participle form of a verb in the Greek, Paul is wanting Titus to have an active sense with his instruction. He is exhorting Titus to make his own teaching lively. He does not want Titus to teach a dead orthodoxy, but encourage the church toward the dynamic life change that the gospel is to bring to congregations.
He then gives Titus instructions on how to teach the older men, older women, younger women, and then younger men in the church at Crete. To the first three groups, he offers each of them five or six various character qualities and duties for them to follow. But for the young guys, he focuses laser-like on the singular target of what is needed in their lives:
Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled.
How much wisdom Paul displays here! And clearly it came from experience, for this exhortation to Titus was no shot in the dark by a grumpy old man. For Paul knew young men - they traveled with him constantly in his ministry! Men like Aristarchus, Barnabas, Epaphras, Gaius, Jason, John Mark, Lucius, Luke, Onesimus, Silas, Sosipater, Timothy, Titus himself, Trophimus, Tychicus...the list could go on. There was one thing Paul had learned in dealing with young men that he wanted to make sure Titus did not forget. If you can get young men to exercise self-control, you have won a great victory!
The word translated "self-controlled" can also be translated "sober" (Wycliffe), "sober-minded"(NKJV), and "sensible" (NASB). The idea is that young men think wisely before they take action, show proper restraint in the face of all the temptations that the world has to offer, and live in a manner that intentionally seeks to serve the eternal interests of the Lord.
Being a father with adult sons, sons-in-law, and a young man in a relationship with my youngest daughter; dwelling in a congregation next to a Christian college campus; and teaching in a seminary, I am privileged to be around quite a number of young men who display self-control. These young men encourage the church and give one great hope about the future of God's kingdom. Coming alongside young men to urge and admonish them in this direction is not to be viewed as interference or unnecessary meddling, but the very work of the church!
For in an age where so many young men are wasting their time in foolish pleasures, observing sober-minded young men striving, with the Spirit's help, to follow the Lord is nothing short of the glory of fulfilled prophecy. For the psalmist, speaking about the age of the Lord Jesus Christ's reign, says, "Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours" (Ps. 110:3).
So help young men out by not overburdening them. Keep it simple. Urge them - and then pray for them! - to be self-controlled.